Mano Menezes’ side didn’t have it all their own way against their stubborn eastern European opponents, who took a shock early lead, but they were ultimately well worth the three points and can now begin looking forward to the latter stages. Belarus, meanwhile, stay second and will qualify with a win over Egypt in their final Group C match.
Though the Brazilians were deserved winners, there were occasional signs of the same defensive frailty that appeared in the 3-2 win over Egypt, with Belarussia’s Brazil-born No10 Renan Bardini Bressan able to sneak in unnoticed to head home the opening goal after just eight minutes. The underdogs could hardly believe their luck, although their lead was to last just seven minutes, with Neymar curling over an inch-perfect, inswinging cross for Alexandre Pato to bullet into the net from close range and restore parity.
Brazil were by far the more adventurous of the two sides, and both Hulk and Neymar came close with shots from outside of the area either side of half-time after showing terrific footwork to set themselves up for the opportunities. Oscar also went close, capitalising on an error by Belarus captain Stanislav Dragun to drive forward from halfway and rifle in a right-footed shot from 25 yards that was brilliantly tipped over.
The South Americans were in need of inspiration to break the deadlock, and it arrived in predictable form. Neymar, who had come close to a wonder-goal on a few occasions, provided the Theatre of Dreams with a strike to remember, curling a magnificent 30-yard free-kick up and over the Belarussian wall, across goal and into the top left-hand corner.
Nor was that the end of his contribution, with the Santos star showing superb skill – not to mention admirable unselfishness – to tee up Oscar for an equally impressive third, side-footed high into the net, as the final seconds of injury time ticked down.